Intellectual Property theft is a common spectacle in third-world countries. Hearing the stories of individuals who have worked extremely hard for something only to be stolen later is gut-wrenching.
Same is the case with Dr. Mujeeb Rahman, a California Institute of Technology alumni, whose idea was allegedly stolen by a fellow Pakistani.
Recently, ProPakistani did a story on a team of Pakistani students who invented a low-cost ventilator called Umbilizer, winning accolades at the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize 2019. The team was headed by a Pakistani named Shaheer Paracha, who is an alumnus of MIT.
How it Happened
Mujeeb Rahman claims that he had already developed the exact same ventilator in August 2016. Not just this, Shaheer, a complete stranger to Mujeeb back then, contacted him on LinkedIn in July 2017 to discuss Mujeeb’s idea of a low-cost ventilator and later took all the credit for an idea which was not his.
Following a meeting, Shaheer liked the idea and offered to help commercialize the device, asking for background details on the project.
He also got different IP-related documents from Saad Pasha, who was working with Dr. Mujeeb on the prototype.
As Mujeeb had to go back to the United States, Shaheer exploited his absence and filed the patent for ventilator through an external lawyer before Mujeeb could file it with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Pakistan.
Mujeeb claims that after filing a plagiarized patent, Shaheer never responded to any of their messages over WhatsApp or through email.
The Story Behind the Idea
Shockingly, Shaheer started pitching the idea at different forums, using the same story that led to the conceptualization of the idea.
Shaheer didn’t stop here. He started pitching this project as his conception and didn’t mention ITU, myself, or Saad at any time. In fact , he plagiarized the very incident that happened to me and started claiming that it happened to his friend’s son. Shaheer was working with us in summers and he didn’t mention any such incident then.
For reference, a young member of Mujeeb’s family, Hamdan died of a respiratory infection at Children Hospital Lahore in December 2015 due to the lack of ventilator support. The young kid was kept alive using a manual ventilator called Ambu bag, which has to be manually inflated 24/7. After 3 long days and nights, the kid died. Feeling depressed, Mujeeb decided to move back to the US.
However, in early 2016, Mujeeb started working on the prototype which was ready by August 2016.
Soon I realized that instead of running away, I should do my part to solve the problem. I realized if I can automate and regulate the use of the ambu bag, it can help many patients. Hence, I started working on the idea.
Dr. Mujeeb’s efforts were lauded by the MIT Technology Review in an article published on September 5, 2016.
Talking about the disappointment from Shaheer’s academic dishonesty and IP theft, Mujeeb said:
I am very disappointed the way this social cause has been taken by someone who can’t relate to the pains of the parents of the kids who I saw dying in front of me in that brutal and cold hospital ward. For people like Shaheer, this is just an opportunity to win awards, get fame, and make money.
Dr. Mujeeb is hopeful that justice will be served and he has already filed a case of IP theft against Shaheer Paracha.
My team there has been to couple of hearings whereas Shaheer has hired a lawyer who just keeps postponing the hearing to next one (sounds familiar?). All of this has really disappointed me and I have lost faith in justice, law, and morals.
Promising to continue his efforts for affordable healthcare solutions in Pakistan, Mujeeb has urged the creative minds to not let his story deter their efforts.